Louisiana · Newspaper clippings · Serial Killers

The Axeman of New Orleans’ first murder

May 23, 1918
New Orleans, Louisiana
The first of several murders attributed to The Axeman of New Orleans are committed

The Axeman’s career officially spanned from May 23, 1918 to October 27, 1919, beginning with the murders of Joseph and Catherine Maggio. The Maggios were attacked in their sleep, their throats sliced then their heads bashed in an axe. Joseph survived for roughly two hours, dying minutes after his brothers investigated strange moans coming from Joseph’s apartment. Catherine died from her neck wound which was so deep she was nearly decapitated.

In total, 6 were killed and 12 survived. The victims were predominantly of Italian descent and it was suspected the murderer targeted his victims due to their ethnicity. The murderer would often break the victims’ doors with a chisel, and attacked with an axe, a straight razor, or both.

After 9 victims were killed or injured, a letter was sent to a newspaper, supposedly by the Axeman himself. In it, the murderer claimed there would be another killing on March 19, though any who played jazz music would be spared. Dance halls overflowed and homes filled with music. One newspaper headline decades later recounted “Night-Long Jazz Orgy Delays Music-Loving Killer.” Though not all residents were intimidated (some weapon-toting citizens taunted the killer to visit them while others politely informed the Axeman their doors would be left unlocked to prevent damage to their homes), the Axeman seemed appeased and no murders were carried out that night.

The letter in its entirety reads:

Hell, March 13, 1919

Esteemed Mortal of New Orleans:

They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman.

When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know whom they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with blood and brains of he whom I have sent below to keep me company.

If you wish you may tell the police to be careful not to rile me. Of course, I am a reasonable spirit. I take no offense at the way they have conducted their investigations in the past. In fact, they have been so utterly stupid as to not only amuse me, but His Satanic Majesty, Francis Josef, etc. But tell them to beware. Let them not try to discover what I am, for it were better that they were never born than to incur the wrath of the Axeman. I don’t think there is any need of such a warning, for I feel sure the police will always dodge me, as they have in the past. They are wise and know how to keep away from all harm.

Undoubtedly, you Orleanians think of me as a most horrible murderer, which I am, but I could be much worse if I wanted to. If I wished, I could pay a visit to your city every night. At will I could slay thousands of your best citizens (and the worst), for I am in close relationship with the Angel of Death.

Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to pass over New Orleans. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a little proposition to you people. Here it is:

I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have just mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band going, well, then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain and that is that some of your people who do not jazz it out on that specific Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the axe.

Well, as I am cold and crave the warmth of my native Tartarus, and it is about time I leave your earthly home, I will cease my discourse. Hoping that thou wilt publish this, that it may go well with thee, I have been, am and will be the worst spirit that ever existed either in fact or realm of fancy.

— The Axeman

No suspects were apprehended and the case remains unsolved.

From the Lubbock Morning Avalanche (Lubbock, Texas) Dec 28, 1954

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